Each of our passions in life is motivated by a story. Obviously, I am not a man, nor do I pretend to think like one. I am a mother and wife; mother to a son and wife to a good man. This is where my story begins in my quest to create meaningful Pilates for men. But why do I care? It began with selfish reasons. I wanted my son to grow up strong and balanced and I wanted my husband to grow old with me in the healthiest of ways. So, I started small, by making Pilates a part of the life of these two men closest to me, my husband, and the boy we were raising to become a man.
My son Alexander started with Mat Pilates at around the age of 8. He has always been tall for his age. At his present age of 21 he is 6’4”. Height can have its difficulties, especially for the musculature of the back and the joints. The Pilates Matwork was great for him! He found that with time, as he participated in sports like baseball, football and soccer, that his body moved more efficiently and effectively than those of many of his teammates. As he grew to love the sport of baseball in particular, he started pitching. Throwing a baseball can be quite a challenge on the shoulder and hip joints, creating many muscular imbalances that can hinder proper development in a growing body. With the regular practice of Pilates, my son was able to prevent these issues. It also helped him to understand and better connect to his body throughout his teenage years. Today Alexander participates on a weekly basis in my mat classes and is, along with my husband, up front modeling the exercises. He even volunteers himself for being a “mover” in photographs and videos promoting both mat Pilates and workouts on the apparatus. He is such a huge support to me and a contributor to changing the image of Pilates!
Now for the husband dilemma. How to convince a man who was a competitive athlete in his youth and afterward dedicated himself exclusively to bodybuilding, that Pilates is not just for women, when that was mainly who we saw doing Pilates? I’ll tell you what helped me initially was the fact that I was also a competitive athlete in my youth and knew what it meant to workout hard and how to lift weights. We could share that experience and perspective. As such I could translate Pilates into a language that he was able to relate to and understand. Once he tried it, which was the first feat, it was clear to him that it was not easy. Therefore he respected it more. He felt a deeper connection to his abdominals than he was ever able to achieve while just lifting weights. That was another point in favor of Pilates. Then there was the matter of getting him to stick to it for a period of time so that he could see what men love most to see from their exercise routine: Results.
What were the main results that my husband Patrick experienced firsthand? His short and muscular stature stood taller and with corrected posture. His strong shoulders could relax. Stress receded. His abdominals defined and hardened. Best of all, he said that he got more out of his concurrent weightlifting workouts. He could lift more weight and do more repetitions. There was less pain in his joints. His endurance increased. Everything became easier. It all seemed so incredible to him!
So, the question arose, how and why did it become my mission to bring this powerfully positive experience of Pilates to other men? Why did I choose to stretch beyond the framework of the men in my family and a few male clients? I think if I’m honest with myself, it was both a personal fascination of mine as well as a professional challenge. How to get men into Pilates.
To do this I needed to figure out. . .
HOW TO TEACH MEN PILATES EFFECTIVELY.
Was there a book to refer to? Maybe my instructor training manuals? Another teacher to ask? No. I had nobody in my area or any specific resources on this topic that would help me, and back in the early 2000s there wasn’t much Pilates found in the online world. So like so many questions I had regarding Pilates, I was left to my own devices.
I’m here to tell you that yes, there is skill and technique required to properly teach Pilates to men. It is the defining criteria that separates success from failure. If you teach men the same way you teach women, you will, on some level, fail. I’m not saying that you cannot train a man at the same time as a woman, or that they cannot all be in the same group class. That is most definitely possible! What I am suggesting is that there are nuances that need to be a part of your teaching toolkit that allow you to properly differentiate teaching tactics for your male clients.
You ask yourself, what is the difference between teaching a man and a woman? What do I have to differentiate? The answer is Everything.
Voice tone, verbal cues, touch (how, where, if), pace, exercise choices, types of variations, number of repetitions, and spring settings for the apparatus.
All of these components will form the basis of how the male client perceives his experience of Pilates. As we know, perception is reality. Your goal should be to create a reality for your male clients to which they can relate and connect. Then, not only will they feel successful, but you will too! This success as a Pilates instructor can be achieved when you learn how to translate Pilates into their language.
Over the many years that I have taught Pilates to male clients, I have discovered the answers and the key to this critical translation. For this success, I am grateful to those first two men that still, after all these years, keep Pilates a part of their lives: my son and my husband. I thank them both! They are how my story began.